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Morris County, Kansas

The Morris County, Kansas, county seat of Council Grove, was once an important stop on the Santa Fe Trail. Council Grove was the last opportunity for travelers to buy supplies to get them through the long trip that lied ahead of them. Morris County is important to Native American history, especially for the Osage, Kaw, and Cheyenne tribes.

Morris County was established in 1859. It is named after antislavery Ohio Senator Thomas Morris. The county’s original namesake, when established in 1855 as Wise County, was after proslavery Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise. Prior to Kansas becoming a territory in 1854, the county was home to the Indian tribes such as the Kaw. It was even at one time considered neutral lands.

In 1825, a treaty was made with the Osage in what is now Council Grove. The treaty was to allow the Santa Fe Trail traffic to cross their lands. Council Grove became a major stop and shipping center on the trail. From 1821-1866, the Santa Fe Trail ran right through Morris County. Council Grove was an important place for travelers and it provided one final opportunity to buy supplies. The county’s first white settler Seth M. Hays, established a trading post in 1847. In 1851, the Kaw Methodist Mission was established, but only lasted as a source of education for Kaw children until 1854.

Throughout the territorial days of Kansas and even into the early 1860’s, there were struggles as to where settlers could homestead without infringing upon the Kaw Reservation. When the Kaw grew weary of settlers infringing up their lands in 1857, a new survey was done. Settlers moved to the area open for settlement, thinking they were on land that was legal for settlement. Settlers were eventually asked to leave this area as misinformation had been given. In 1862, trouble was still occurring and troops were called in to remove the settlers. They returned to their land a day later after the troops left. In 1859, there was an incident caused by the Kaw Indians, resulting in the death or injury of two white men. The offenders of the Kaw tribe were handed over for punishment to avoid a larger conflict. In 1868, the Cheyenne tribe invaded the county with the goal of fighting the Kaw, which did result in a battle between the two tribes.  

 Morris County was not shielded from the intense politically charged atmosphere of the Bleeding Kansas years. In an election over a legislative candidate. The free-state candidate A.I. Baker was the actual winner. But he was denied access to his role, and instead his proslavery opponent Mobillon McGee was allowed in. Morris County men fought for the Union in the Civil War, and even some Kaw Indians volunteered. During the Civil War and even for years after the county experienced the attacks by guerillas, and resulted in horse thievery, lynching, and murders.

In 1871, the question of the county seat location came up. Council Grove was the standing county seat. It was challenged by Parkerville, and despite “trickery” and voter fraud in an election, Council Grove remained the county seat.

In the late 1870’s Benjamin “Pap” Singleton came to Morris County and founded the settlement of Dunlap for Exodusters, migrating freed blacks from the South.

Farming continues to be important in the county, which is among the top winter wheat producers.

Morris County possesses many properties on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Council Grove Carnegie Library established around 1917, is one of the libraries started with the help of Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation and their work in establishing public libraries. The Seth Hayes Home, built in the mid 1860’s is located in Council Grove. Six Mile Creek Station Historic District was a stage stop after the stop at Diamond Springs was destroyed in 1863. It served as a stop for just a few years, until around 1866. The buildings were burned down by Cheyenne Indians in 1868. It was used for ranching in later years. The Kaw Methodist Mission which was established in 1851. The Last Chance Store, built in 1857, was not only an important place on the Santa Fe Trail and Indian trading years, but was also used as a polling place in 1858 when the Lecompton Constitution was being voted on. The Council Grove National Historic Landmark is not only on the National Register, but has gained the higher status of National Historic Landmark.

There are many interesting figures with connections to Morris County. Charles Curtis, United States Senator and Vice President of the United States, attended the Kaw Indian School on the reservation south of Council Grove when he was eight years old. He moved to Topeka in Shawnee County when Cheyenne Indians threatened to raid the Kaw Indians. Frank “Chief” Hauke, an active local politician and candidate for governor, became an honorary chief of the Kaw Indians. George A Custer purchased a great deal of land in the area and had camped under “Custer Elm” in 1867. W. L. “bill” Young who was a long-time mayor of Council Grove was known statewide for his work for flood control and his efforts in obtaining the federal reservoir near Council rove. John Rhodes, the United States Representative from Arizona and Minority Leader in Congress is a native of the county. George Morehouse, lawyer, writer, state senator, drafted the first automobile laws in the West and sponsored the bill making the Sunflower the state flower. He originated the movement after the turn of the century to mark the Santa Fe Trail and other historic highways. James M. Miller served as a Congressman from the county from 1899 to 1911.

Quick Facts

Date Established: June 21, 1855
Date Organized: February 11, 1859
County Seat: Council Grove
Kansas Region: North Central
Physiographic Region: Flint Hills Uplands and Osage Cuestas
Scenic Byways: Flint Hills
Courthouse: 1969


1825 - Treaty with the Osage in what is now Council Grove.
1846 - Reservation related treated with the Kaw
1847 - Seth M. Hayes establishes a trading post in the county.
1851 - 1854- Kaw Mission is an active school for the Kaw Indians.
1855 - Wise County is established.
1859 - Wise County becomes Morris County.
1868 - Cheyenne Indians invade the county to fight the Kaw.
1870 - Benjamin “Pap” Singleton starts the settlement of Dunlap for the incoming “Exodusters,” freed slaves immigrating from the South. 

More on Morris County


Entry: Morris County, Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2010

Date Modified: August 2023

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.